The influence of attentional focus on the self-efficacy-performance relationship in a continuous running task


The self-efficacy-performance relationship in continuous sport tasks has been shown to be reciprocal yet unequal with stronger influences from performance to efficacy than efficacy to performance (LaForge-MacKenzie & Sullivan, 2014). Bandura (2012) suggested that sociocognitive variables may influence this relationship; factors such as attention may bias the processing of performance and self-efficacy information (Bandura, 1982, 1997; Bandura & Jourden, 1991). As confidence and attention are important aspects of peak running performance (Brewer, Van Raalte, Linder, & VanRaalte, 1991), the purpose of the present study was to examine the self-efficacy-performance relationship under three conditions of attentional focus. Participants ran continuously for one kilometer in one of three randomly assigned attentional focus conditions: internal-focus (n = 51), external-focus (n = 50), and control (n = 49). Efficacy was assessed using a one-item measure every 200 meters. Path analyses revealed significant efficacy-to-performance pathways in all conditions: external-focus (p < .05, βs ranging from -.17 to -.32), internal-focus (p < .05, βs ranging from -.26 to -.36), and control (p < .05, βs ranging from -.29 to -.42). Reciprocal relationships were absent in all conditions. In contrast to previous research (e.g., LaForge-MacKenzie & Sullivan, 2014; Sitzmann & Yeo, 2013), efficacy-to-performance effects were more significant and robust than performance-to-efficacy pathways. The attentional focus manipulation, regardless of direction, seems to strengthen the efficacy-to-performance pathways, suggesting that the efficacy-to-performance influence is stronger with focused attention. These results support Bandura’s (2012) suggestion that sociocognitive factors such as attention have the ability to alter the causal structure of the efficacy-performance relationship. From an applied perspective, attention to a specific activity during a continuous running task may result in a strong self-efficacy-to-performance influence, supporting implications that high self-efficacy and focused attention are important to running performance (Brewer et al., 1991). 

Acknowledgments: Funding was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada